Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Assume The Recovery Position.....

A big thank you to all you well wishers, your thoughts mean a lot to me.  Just a quick note to say my man is now home, looking much better and complaining about being covered in sticky residue from the various hospital plasters/attachments, so he can't be feeling too terrible!  A very lucky escape indeed.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Home Is Where The Heart Is.......

Last week I took my daughter to feed the swans and ducks on our local lake.  This time, I think we had just about every swan in the area clamouring for our few slices of stale bread, and things got pretty heated.  If you have never seen a couple of swans having a punch-up, let me tell you it is quite spectacular, involving lots of standing up in the water, flapping of enormous wings and pecking of beaks.  Of course I did not have my camera with me that morning....

In the distance I noticed a pair of swans who were not interested in the bread, they just had eyes for each other and were participating in a pair-bonding display.  This is like a courtship dance with the swans making elegant shapes with their necks and wings and mirroring each other's movements.  It was truly beautiful to watch, especially when you think that swans mate for life.  A recurring movement between the swans was the bending of their necks and touching of beaks, which I noticed made the shape of a heart...which in turn gave me an idea for a felt model.  The above is the result and I am quite proud of it, having designed it entirely on my own.  It will be for sale in my Etsy shop shortly.

On a more serious note, while it is easy in 'Blogland' to make it seem that everything in your world is happy and pretty with nothing ever going wrong, sometimes something happens that brings you down to earth with a bump.  I've been having a pretty stressful time lately due to a couple of things going on - one involving extensive visits to the dentist (ouch!) and the other involving my day job which I don't feel at liberty to discuss, despite my inner outrage.  Yesterday however, something happened which topped it all - my partner of 17 years was home from Belgium for the weekend but was feeling quite wonky since early Saturday morning.  He checked himself in to the Emergency Dept at lunchtime yesterday and I got a phone call two hours later to tell me that he'd been whisked up to CCU with a heart attack.  They'd dealt with it incredibly fast, cleared the offending artery, gave him a stent and he should be home within a couple of days.  It was a lucky escape - he could have had this happen while on his own in Belgium or while driving to or from there.  It kind of puts things in perspective - your loved ones are what matters, everything else is just decoration.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


Two little pugs, present and correct, ready to go on a journey to Canada.  The smaller one is made from felt and has a bed, bowl, food and bone, as well as a smart red polkadot neckerchief.

The larger one is knitted and has wool jointed legs and a real leather collar with ID disc.  These are a commission - if you would like a tiny pug of your own, don't hesitate to get in touch!
The acrylic of Smudge is coming along slowly but surely.  In the photograph her muzzle is covered in sand, which I am having to 'edit'.  Also had to re-work part of her mouth as the alignment of her teeth in my original sketch was slightly out - that's the beauty of acrylics, if you make a mistake it is so easily corrected!

Monday, 23 January 2012

The First Cuckoo Of Spring......

Here is the project that has been causing me worry for months now - I have been churning it over in my mind wondering how I was going to accomplish a miniature cuckoo clock that had moving components.  Well, turns out it wasn't quite as difficult as I envisioned, although it did entail a lot of very fiddly work.

The bird is attached to a coiled wire which in turn is attached by a carpet tack at the back of the hole.  The doors are hinged with thread and do actually shut enclosing the bird inside.  The bird was made using a small strip of yellow icord and then knitting a tiny triangle of blue which was sewn on for the back and wings - he has a tail (which after all that work can't be seen!), embroidered eyes and the tiniest beak.

The clock face was embroidered and the hands are tiny slivers of card with a pin through the middle to anchor them - the base of the clock is made from several pieces of foamboard glued together so the pin holds very firm - and the hands can be moved. 

The pendulums were knitted and are attached with some old necklace chain.

I am so very relieved this has worked out OK - again, I have to point out that it is only 3 inches tall!  My poor eyes!
During the day I have been working slowly and steadily on the dog portrait.  I tend work from the eye outwards, although spent a fair amount of time on the nose yesterday.  Seems fine so far.....

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sometimes Things Just Turn Out Right.......

It feels like a very long time since I painted an acrylic animal portrait and I was wondering if it might be tricky getting back into it.  I also decided (through sheer laziness) to just sketch this one out by eye - usually when it is a commission I either use the grid system to transfer the image onto the board or occasionally print off the section of the reference photo I want in the size I want and trace the important features.  It feels a bit like cheating, but I always think that the person paying me to paint their child or pet is expecting the finished portrait to be a decent likeness and this guarantees results.

It doesn't mean I can't make a decent sketch, it is just a bit of added insurance.  However, the above painting was sketched out 'properly' and although I had to fix a couple of minor errors in proportion along the way, once the first layer of paint was blocked in I was really pleased with the way it is turning out already.  I don't think I will ever tire of painting dogs!
The knitted cuckoo clock is coming along nicely too - remember, this is 3 inches x 2 inches, so you can imagine what fun I will have making the cuckoo and putting some hinged doors on that hole at the top....
And this sad little pug needs to be stuffed and have his ears and tail sorted out.  He is due to go to Canada - long journey for a little chap!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Now I Can Get On!

As I seem to be unable to get on with one project while another sits unfinished, I sat up last night and completed this crochet lace scarflet.  I can't call it a shawl as despite adding three extra rows, it did turn out quite small.  I followed the pattern to the letter but perhaps my crochet tension is a lot tighter than other people's - must be all that amigurumi where the stitches have to be as tight as can be!

I washed it, blocked it, fell in love with it!
Especially as it matches my favourite t-shirt and floaty cardigan combination!  So it was worn today and will stay in my small personal collection of pretty scarves.  However, if you would like one made for you, do get in touch - it is such a delicate and adaptable design, I would be happy to crochet it again.

Now that is out of the way, I can get on with the paid work!  The basic construction of the cuckoo clock is complete and now I have to begin knitting it's cover.  And this afternoon, like a big box of chocolates waiting to be opened, I can start on the acrylic dog portrait - I can't wait!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Must Learn To Prioritise!

Firstly, yes, putting a dinner plate inside a hat when blocking does result in the perfect beret shape!

Very pleased with that result, we shall use that tip again!

Suddenly the work has started piling up again.  I have made a start on the basic structure of a knitted cuckoo clock - this is going to take some doing, especially as I want to have the cuckoo actually go inside it's doors....a step too far?  We'll give it a go!  Also got some tiny LED light for inclusion in the mini chandelier, also for the animated film.  That will (supposedly) be the last item for the animation- I know I have moaned for England over getting all these tiny things designed and made, but it has been great fun and I know I will miss the challenges.

As well as the above there are three little dog sets to be made and a dog portrait to be painted.......
...so why am I still fiddling about with this crochet scarf?  Hopefully it will be complete by tonight and I can concentrate on the other projects.  I'm also hoping that blocking will work it's usual magic and a beautiful scarf will emerge from what currently looks like an old dish rag.....

Sunday, 15 January 2012

What's For Dinner?

Just finished this cute beret knitted in a combination of Noro Kureyon...and the other cheaper one that looks like Noro whose name escapes me right now.  Can you see the join?
When knitted it looks like a beanie - in order to make the beret shape, the pattern advises blocking it over a dinner plate.  Which is what's inside right now.  Can't wait to see if it works when the hat is dry and the plate removed!

As far as painting is concerned, after the brief hiatus over Christmas, it's back in the saddle with an acrylic dog portrait - hooray!  Haven't done a dog portrait in acrylics for a very long time, I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, 13 January 2012

More, More, More!

A little titivation was required by the animator..so now we have some candlesticks and a toasting fork.  We have decided that basically we are still a pair of little girls making dollshouse furniture and calling it work....I can think of worse ways to pass the time!
Just finished this amazing shawl using a pattern form this month's Knit magazine.  Bizarrely, all their photographs of it are from the wrong side, which is a shame as the pattern is truly beautiful.  I was planning on putting this up for sale on Etsy, but.......
...it looks so pretty on, look at those lacy patterns and the gorgeous aqua and cream shades of the cotton yarn....
....but do I really need yet another shawl?  Would I wear it?
But it's so pretty.......look, help me out here, put it to the vote, sell or keep?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A Little Bird Told Me.......

Here is the finished watercolour painting of a pair of sparrows on Boston Common.  I thoroughly enjoyed this work - sparrows have to be one of my favourite types of bird and I never tire of painting them.  I managed to get quite a few reference photographs of sparrows while we were in Boston - they were just so tame, it was possible to get within a few feet of them without them flying away.

Not too sure what to do next - perhaps more in the same vein, as it's been a while since using watercolours and I do so love them!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Watch The Birdie!

This is the painting I have been working on slowly and steadily over the past week, squeezing in time whenever I could.  Still got a way to go but I am really happy with it so far, in particular with the little sparrow at the bottom.  Whilst I am reasonably satisfied with the top sparrow, who is supposed to be the main focus of the picture, the 'background' bird has turned out far better.  It was one of those moments yesterday whilst looking at the day's progress that I could hardly believe it had come out of the end of my paintbrush.  Let's just hope I manage to keep it clean until it's completion - as with all paintings on a pure white background, I am having trouble with little splashes of paint when I clean my brush - all very well telling me to be careful or to cover the part I am not working on, when you are 'in the moment' that all falls by the wayside!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Come Sit By The Fire......

Yesterday I spent the whole evening working out how on earth to make a grate out of florists wire - took a couple of attempts - and then the rest of the time knitting fire.  This was quite fun - I knitted a square of garter stitch in black and sewed it up in a random 'lump' before adding the glowing coals with embroidered yarn.  I then knitted three different flame shapes using red, oranges and yellow and sewed them on top of the coals.  They have been wired for movement as of course this is for the animation.

All that's left to do is to somehow fashion a yarn toasting fork...I think it will have to have a wire base and then be wrapped as I cannot knit one!

Next is the dreaded cuckoo clock - I have left this to last as I have not the faintest idea of how to go about it!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


The knitted fireplace is just about done - all that is needed now is a black backing as the flue, a grate with fire in it and perhaps a set of pokers etc.  All?  That's quite a bit really, but the donkey work is done and I quite enjoy making the fiddly bits and pieces.

The tiles were knitted individually and sewn in place - thank goodness they fit without the aid of maths - then a darker blue 'grouting' was embroidered around them.  Note to self, next time, if there ever is a next time, do the embroidery before attaching the hearth as it is very tricky negotiating the corners.

Still not been able to get near my paints this week - too much to do around the house.  However, after de-Christmassing the place yesterday which took three hours (three hours - how depressing was that!) I should have a free afternoon today at last.  I can't wait!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year! It's been a lovely Christmas break but unfortunately over far too soon - it's back to work at the day job tomorrow and I don't want to go!  There wasn't much time for arts & crafts over the last 10 days and I would dearly like a few free days to do more.  I did manage to make this little bag for my new phone - it's been so long since I replaced my phone that I didn't know they no longer make them the right shape to fit in the special little phone-pocket in my handbag.  As I am very hard on my phone, jamming it into pockets together with keys and dog treats, dropping it in mud, dropping it on concrete, using it in the rain...you get the idea...it seemed sensible to give it a fighting chance to last as long as the last one by making it a protective case.  This was sewn from a scrap of gorgeous watery-blue cotton, lined with bright pink felt  with an appliqued goldfish on the back.  I'm sure it won't stay looking like this for long....
I've also managed to put the finishing touches to this scarf which was knitted well before Christmas but needed the fiddly-diddlies to arrive from China.  Now it has the sweetest little mother-of-pearl buttons sewn all over it, each one with a tiny flower design on it.  Pretty and practical, it can be buttoned in place however it's new owner pleases.
I've made a fair bit of headway with this miniature fireplace - now it needs some knitted tiles to go around it as well as a grate with knitted logs and flames.....nothing too difficult, eh?  We were watching Sherlock on tv last night when I saw exactly the right kind of fireplace tiles I want to make for this - I just wonder how to condense them into 2 cm squares!
I did manage to fight my way through the debris and get to my desk for some painting a few days ago.  I've had this picture in mind since we went to Boston and photographed these tame sparrows in a bush in the park.  I know they are common little birds with no fancy plumage, but I just love them - they are such characters and I spent ages hand feeding them at Boston Harbour last year.
I got given this spectacular necklace by the lovely Sybille from Magpie Magic as a combined birthday/Christmas present.  It is so pretty and I have enjoyed wearing it over the holidays with no fear of it getting pulled apart by little fingers or covered in goodness-knows-what - the hazards of working in an infant school.  It's been great wearing decent clothes and staying clean for a fortnight - the worst I've been covered in has been a bit of mud from dog-walking and gardening.  That all ends tomorrow, back to wearing the scruffy clothes.......
Finally, daft photograph of the week.  I can't leave anything soft and fluffy around without the dog thinking it's a custom-made pillow for him.  Nothing says comfort like a stuffed octopus apparently....